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Our favourite openings haven’t been quite as popular in recent online rapid events as we might have hoped, but when they have received patronage, it’s been of the highest level. We’ll see a couple of instructive Carlsen wins in the London, with Maxime Vachier Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura and especially Vladislav Artemiev also getting in on the act

Download PGN of May ’20 d-Pawn Specials games

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The Trompowsky: 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 d5 4 e3 e6 [A45]

Maxime Vachier Lagrave has certainly widened his repertoire over the past month and surprised Hikaru Nakamura with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 during the Magnus Carlsen Invitational. After 2...c5 3 d5 d6 4 Nc3 White was already on his way to a pleasant edge, so perhaps it was no surprise that Nakamura himself then tried the Trompowsky in his two white games with the French no.1. The second of those saw, surprisingly, 2...g6 3 Bxf6 exf6 4 e3 Bg7, which could have led to an early bath for Black, whereas the first witnessed the far more sensible 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 d5 4 e3 e6 5 Bd3 Bd6:

We’ve examined this solid choice on a few occasions before and after 6 Bxe4 Bxf4 7 exf4 dxe4 8 Nc3 Nc6! the novelty 9 d5?! failed to convince in Nakamura, H - Vachier-Lagrave, M.

The Torre Attack v KID: 2...g6 3 Bg5 Bg7 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 e3 [A48]

Vladislav Artemiev quite likes 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Bg5 as White and especially then the calm 3...Bg7 4 Nbd2 0-0 5 e3. After 5...d5 6 Be2 Nbd7 7 0-0 Re8 8 c4 a fairly important position arose in Artemiev, V - Nagy, G:

I had thought this might be quite pleasant for White, but it seems that Black is likely OK after 8...e5!? or even 8...h6 9 Bh4 e5 when Artemiev went on to triumph in a positionally impressive game after 10 Rc1!?.

The Torre Attack: 2...d5 3 Bg5 [D03]

Meeting 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 with 3 Bg5 still doesn’t have the best of reputations, but after 3...Ne4 4 Bh4 (and not 4 Bf4, as Artemiev was arguably a little fortunate to get away with against Caruana) 4...Qd6 5 Nbd2 Qh6 6 Qc1! it’s not impossible that White is just slightly for choice:

White’s last is directed against 6...g5?!, which quickly backfired on Black in Artemiev, V - Vidit, S.

The Neo-London: 2...c5 3 d5 [A45]

It’s worth pausing after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 c5, which remains a critical test of White’s move order:

From a practical perspective, it may be that 3 dxc5 is the most pragmatic choice. It’s less critical than 3 d5, but by no means every London player is happy to debate the Vaganian Gambit after 3...Qb6 4 Nc3 Qxb2 5 Bd2 or even just to venture into Benoni structures. They arise after 3...d6 4 Nc3 a6 5 a4 e5 6 Bd2, albeit with a small twist in that Black is now able to go 6...e4!?, as he did in Carlsen, M - Nepomniachtchi, I. It didn’t do him much good though, as in a most instructive manner, Carlsen had killed off all Black’s counterplay by move 20.

The Neo-London: 2...c5 3 e3 [A45]

Of course, the most natural move for White after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 c5 is 3 e3, but then there arises the question of what to do about a certain now well-known draw after 3...Qb6, and if 4 Nc3 Qxb2 5 Nb5 Nd5. Now 6 Rb1 Qxa2 7 Ra1 Qb2 is just going to result in an early handshake (or elbow bump), but with 6 a3!? a6 7 Rb1 Qa2 8 Qc1!? (continuing to spurn the repetition) 8...axb5 9 Ra1 Qxa1 10 Qxa1 White went for the win in Moroni, L - Paravyan, D.

I’ve taken quite a deep look at this most unbalanced position. It’s by no means impossible that theoretically-speaking White is for choice, but for humans over the board, Black’s chances appear at least equal.

The London: 2...g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 Bg7 5 h4 [A45]

While I do generally try to avoid blitz games in this column, exceptions do sometimes have to be made, not least when it means we can take a look at the critical 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 e3 Bg7 5 h4 0-0 6 h5 c5!:

The latest evidence suggests that Black might even be able to get away with 7 hxg6 hxg6 8 Nf3 Nc6, although that key Barry leap 9 Ne5 could do with a test here, as we’ll see in Jumabayev, R - Woo, C.

The London: 2...Nf6 3 Nf3 e6 4 e3 c5 5 Nbd2 [D02]

In their semi-final Carlsen and Ding twice debated 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Bf4 e6 4 Nbd2. The world champion was happy to transpose into Torre waters and quickly built up a big position after 4...Bd6 5 Bg5, so Ding then switched to 4...c5 5 e3 Qb6, aiming to exploit White’s move order:

After 6 Rb1 perhaps remarkably 6...Bd6!? was already a new move in Carlsen, M - Ding Liren, and one which quickly led to a rare early strategic slip from the champ.

Who knows how many more high-level online events there will be over the next month, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for any tests of our favourite d-pawn lines.

Until then, Richard

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